About SMI Workshop 2012

publication of this past workshop can be found here: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2459056

We are proud to announce here:

The 1st Workshop on Smart Material Interfaces: “A Material step to the future”

It will be held in Oct 26th 2012, during the 13th International Conference on Multimodal Interaction (ICMI 2012)

Goals of the workshop

The goal of this workshop is to draw attention to the emerging field of smart material interfaces. This field takes advantage of the latest generation of engineered materials that has a special property defined “smart”. Smart materials are capable of changing their physical properties, such as shape, size and color, and can be controlled by using certain stimuli (light, potential difference, temperature and so on). The workshop aims at stimulating research and development in interfaces that make use of these smart materials, and it will provide examples of state-of-the-art design of smart material interfaces, using different modalities of interaction.

Topic Keywords: Smart material interface, Tangible interface, Reality-based interface.

About Smart Material Interfaces 

Every day we are getting closer to Mark Weiser’s [1] vision of Ubiquitous Computing that motivated researchers to augment everyday objects and environments with computing capabilities to provide Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs) [2], organic interfaces [3] and reality-based [4] interaction possibilities. That is, HCI researchers are developing a wide range of new interfaces that tend to separate from the “window, icon, menu, pointing device” (WIMP).

We can find many different examples of these post-WIMP interaction styles such as: mixed and augmented reality, tangible interaction, ubiquitous and pervasive computing, handheld and mobile interaction, perceptual and affective computing etc. [4]. As mentioned in [4], many of these interaction styles seem to proceeding in different and unrelated ways, but they share a common important knowledge. All of these interaction styles try to take advantage on users’ pre-existing knowledge of everyday life. They employ themes of reality such as users’ understanding of naïve physics, their own bodies, the surrounding environment, and other people trying to mimic the real world for making the users more comfortable, creating an interaction more close to what they are used to do already.

To foster and experiment new kinds of interfaces and interaction styles, a vision called Smart Material Interfaces (SMIs) (see e.g. [5], [6]) has been introduced. This vision takes advantage of the latest generation of engineered materials that has special properties defined “smart”. Partly introduced to provide an answer to the limitations present in common TUIs1, SMIs try to overcome common pattern of interaction and leave behind the “digital feeling” by a more analogical and continuous space of interaction, tightly coupling digital and physical world by means of the materials’ properties. And not just to copy reality-based patterns, but also to create new possible way to reach the users’ needs and satisfaction.

The technology push of smart materials created a new kind market for innovative materials, available now to the large public. Many different fields already started to create interfaces with these smart materials, creating new way of expression and new languages to communicate with the users.

The main focus of a SMI is being able to make changes in the physical and material properties, creating channels for new input/output modalities. SMI proposes the use of materials that have inherent or “self-augmented” capabilities of changing physical properties such as color, shape and texture, under the control of some external stimulus such as, among other things, electricity, magnetism, light, pressure and temperature.

Examples of SMI

Considerable efforts have been made to explore the possibilities of applying smart materials in interfaces. For example, Surflex [7] consists of a foam with coiled nitinol muscle wires embedded. The muscle wires can be used to reshape the foam into different shapes. This principle has been applied as a way to use SpeakCup [8], a device used to record and replay messages by physically manipulating its shape (shape-changing interfaces [8]). Another suggested application of Surflex is as a form of physical computer- aided design. Indeed, Parkes and Ishii [9] presented just such a design tool for motion prototyping and form finding, named Bosu. Bosu consists of a number of flexible modules that can be physically manipulated (e.g. bending, twisting). The physical manipulations can then be played back thanks to nitinol muscle wires embedded in the modules. Smart materials have been used in the creation of novel ambient displays. Shutters [10]) is a curtain with a grid of shutters that are actuated by nitinol wires. Shutters can be used to regulate the amount of light and air flow that enters a room, as well as serves as an ambient display by creating patterns using the grid of shutters. An ambient display that aims for a more tangible experience is Lumen [11]. A grid of cylindrical physical pixels is actuated to move up and down, using nitinol wires. The physical pixels contain LED’s that allow Lumen to display animations both visually, and physically. While nitinol is by far the most widely applied smart material, others have used ferro fluids to create physical ambient interfaces as well as thermo-chromic materials. WeMe [12] for example, is an ambient display that visualizes the presence of members of remote families represented by bubbles of ferro fluid. Another display that makes use of magnetic fluids is Programmables Blobs [15] by Wakita, that try to force the blobs to change shape using electromagnets. Wakita [13] also notes how in design the materials and colors are felt as part of the emotional communication of the interface. Using the property (in this case colors) of the material directly, their aim is to communicate mood by changing the color of Jello Display-Keyboard using IR-chromic material. Several other examples can be found over arts and design installations, as for example Sachiko Kodama’s artwork with ferro fluid [14]. 


  1.  Weiser, M.: The computer for the 21st century. Scientific American 265(3), 94–104 (1991)
  2. Ishii, H.: Tangible bits: beyond pixels. In: Proc. of TEI’08. pp. xv–xxv. TEI 08, ACM, New York, NY, USA (2008)
  3. Vertegaal R., and Poupyrev, I.: Introduction to Special Issue on Organic User Interfaces. Communications of the ACM vol. 51 (6), 2008.
  4. Jacob, R.J.et al.: Reality-based interaction: a framework for post-wimp interfaces. In: Proc. of CHI’08. pp. 201–210. CHI ’08, ACM, New York, NY, USA (2008)
  5. Minuto, A., Vyas, D., Poelman, W., Nijholt, A.: Smart Material Interfaces: A vision. In: Proceedings 4th International ICST Conference on Intelligent Technologies for Interactive Entertainment (INTETAIN 2011), Genoa, Italy, May 25-27, 2011, LNICST 78, A. Camurri, C. Costa, and G. Volpe (Eds.), Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, 2012, 57-62, to appear.
  6. Vyas, D., Poelman, W., Nijholt, A., de Bruijn,  A.: Smart Material Interfaces: A New Form of Physical Interaction. CHI’12, May 5–10, 2012, Austin, Texas, USA. ACM 978-1-4503-1016-1/12/05, to appear.
  7. Coelho, M., Ishii, H., and Maes, P. Surflex: a programmable surface for the design of tangible interfaces. In CHI ’08 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, CHI EA ’08, ACM (New York, NY, USA, 2008), 3429–3434.
  8. Coelho, M., and Zigelbaum, J. Shape-changing interfaces. Personal Ubiquitous Comput. 15 (February 2011), 161–173.
  9. Parkes, A., and Ishii, H. Bosu: a physical programmable design tool for transformability with soft mechanics. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, DIS ’10, ACM (New York, NY, USA, 2010), 189–198.
  10. Coelho, M., and Maes, P. Shutters: a permeable surface for environmental control and communication. In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction, TEI ’09, ACM (New York, NY, USA, 2009), 13–18.
  11. Poupyrev, I., Nashida, T., Maruyama, S., Rekimoto, J., and Yamaji, Y. Lumen: interactive visual and shape display for calm computing. In ACM SIGGRAPH 2004 Emerging technologies, SIGGRAPH ’04, ACM (New York, NY, USA, 2004), 17–.
  12. Masson, N., and Mackay, W. E. Weme: Seamless active and passive liquid communication. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. Part II: Novel Interaction Methods and Techniques, Springer-Verlag (Berlin, Heidelberg, 2009), 694–700.
  13. Wakita, A., Shibutani, M., and Tsuji, K. Emotional smart materials. In Human-Computer Interaction. Ambient, Ubiquitous and Intelligent Interaction, J. Jacko, Ed., vol. 5612 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, 2009, 802–805.
  14. Kodama, S. and M. Takeno. Protrude, Flow. Proceedings of SIGGRAPH’2001 Electronic Arts and Animation Catalogue. 2001: ACM: pp. 138.
  15. Wakita, A., Nakano, A.: Programmable blobs: a rheologic interface for organic shape design. In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, TEI ’11, ACM (New York, NY, USA, 2011), 273-276.
%d bloggers like this: